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Driven: Skoda changes into upmarket clothes
Skoda sees a strong future as it launches its all-new Superb sedan and wagon
16 Mar 2016
By NEIL DOWLING
SKODA has stretched its ambitions in line with its bigger fourth-generation Superb flagship by aiming it directly at established European prestige brands.
It is a bold move for the Volkswagen Group-owned Czech brand that previously focused on the budget end of the market where its reputation for durability and clever thinking kept a loyal audience entertained and mobilised.
Now it is sharp styling, high equipment levels, an expanded safety portfolio and keen pricing that starts at $39,990 plus on-road costs that are being promoted as the new Superb’s hallmarks.
There are three engine and spec levels on offer and the base price for the Superb has increased by $8000 as the company edges closer to premium territory.
The $39,990 price-tag is for the new range-opening 162TSI, while the mid-range diesel 140TDI starts at $43,990 and the range tops out at $50,990 for the flagship 206TSI 4x4. Opting for a wagon body style adds $1700.
Pricing is now much closer to the Superb's cousin, the Volkswagen Passat, that starts at $34,990 and hits a high of $47,990. The Passat is also offered with the 140TDI diesel and that variant is priced at $45,990.
Skoda Australia director Michael Irmer said he is hoping for a bright future for the Superb and while not discussing brands, added that it could now be more than competitive with prestige European car-makers.
“This is the best car ever made by Skoda,” he said at the Superb launch in Sydney this week.
“It has the three pillars to drive the brand to the next level – best product, an aspiring brand image and the object of our emphasis at the moment, an excellent dealer network.”
While he would not discuss sales volumes for Australia, Mr Irmer said he believes it will be “much, much bigger” than the outgoing third-generation Superb.
Only the name is shared with the superseded Superb that sold 264 units in 2015 Down Under, a drop of 24.8 per cent from the 351 sales in 2014 – a fall blamed partly on buyer anticipation of the new model and slumping large-car sales.
Globally, Skoda sold 570,000 third-generation Superbs in its 2008-2014 lifespan and Mr Irmer said the new model is expected to sell more than 900,000 units in its estimated seven-year life.
A lot of Mr Irmer's optimism is based on the design of the latest sedan – which retains the large lift-back boot id design – and wagon.
Cabin space is reflected by a cargo area that has grown from 565 to 625 litres (sedan, seats up) and from 1670 to 1760 litres (seats down).
The styling follows the look of the smaller Octavia, but builds on it with cues from the striking Vision C concept from the 2014 Geneva motor show, addind more defined body creases, jeweled headlight glass and sharp-edged tail-lights.
It is 28mm longer than the old model and a mere 6mm higher, but its increase in width by 47mm to 1864mm overcomes the perceived narrowness of the previous car, while boosting passenger space.
The added width gives solidity to the car on the road and the extra 80mm of wheelbase increases rear-seat knee-room by a substantial 157mm.
Mr Irmer said there has also been a contraction in the number of model variants and a deliberate focus on three drivetrains.
It now sits on the Volkswagen Group’s MQB platform and inherits the Group’s options including adaptive ride control.
There are three engines, all with a 2.0-litre capacity and four cylinders, with no sign of the outgoing car’s V6 petrol unit.
The entry level liftback sedan and wagon now gets the choice of a 162kW/350Nm 2.0-litre turbo-petrol that replaces the similarly-sized 118kW/250Nm mill and a 140kW/400Nm turbo-diesel EA288 engine that is more efficient and powerful than its 125kW/350Nm predecessor.
The third engine is linked only to an all-wheel drive system. It is a tweaked version of the 162kW EA888 turbo-petrol engine, now delivering 206kW/350Nm, up from 191kW/350Nm with the unchanged torque figure delivered from a lower 1750rpm, down from 2500rpm.
Despite the performance boost, Skoda claims a reduction in fuel consumption.
The 162kW petrol's figure is 6.4 litres per 100 kilometres, down from 7.2L/100km previously, while the 140kW diesel claims 4.8L/100km, down from 5.5L/100km.
The 206kW AWD version has a 29 per cent reduction in fuel use, now 7.3L/100km from 10.3L/100km. This model also has a faster acceleration figure, reaching 100km/h from rest in 5.8 seconds.
All models have a six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission and all except the 4x4 models are front-wheel drive. A drive-mode system is standard on the 4x4 and optional on others, with three choices of ride and performance from normal to comfort and sport.
Standard equipment on the base diesel or petrol variants includes three-zone air-conditioning, eight-speaker audio with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, 18-inch alloy wheels with full-size alloy spare, leather upholstery and heated front seats, tablet holder for the rear passenger, foglights with a cornering function, satellite navigation, adaptive cruise control, privacy glass and two umbrellas hidden within the front door panels.
Safety equipment on all models includes adaptive cruise control, forward emergency collision mitigation with automatic braking, nine airbags, bi-Xenon headlights with LED daytime running lights, reversing camera, front and rear park sensors, driver fatigue detection and a tyre-pressure monitor.
The 206kW 4x4 model adds 19-inch alloys, steering-wheel paddle shifters, keyless entry and start, drive-mode selection, 15mm lower sports suspension and LED ambient lighting.
It also has an enhanced safety package with the all-wheel drive that includes rear cross-traffic alert, parking assistant with automated steering, lane-departure warning and blind-spot indicator.
Three packages with bundled options are available. The Image Pack, which is standard on the 206kW 4x4, adds 19-inch alloys, lowered sports suspension, LED ambient cabin lighting, keyless entry and start and the drive-mode system for $1700.
The Tech Pack includes adaptive chassis control (effectively electromagnetic dampers), blind-spot indicator, lane assist, the virtual-pedal foot-sensing auto boot, automated park assist, rear cross traffic alert, traffic jam assist (follows the car ahead) and pre-collision passenger assist for $3400.
The Comfort Pack, at $1500, includes perforated leather upholstery, rear heated seats, heated and ventilated front seats, electric-adjust passenger seat and remote control to allow rear passengers to adjust the front offside seat.
Skoda has expanded its ownership benefits by introducing pre-paid service packages that are optional to the existing capped-price service program.
“We have had great success with our after-sales products so we saw a chance to expand the features,” Mr Irmer said.
There is an extended warranty that adds two years and has an additional two years – making it five years in total – on the roadside assistance package.
This will cost $1699.
On offer is a pre-paid (at time of vehicle purchase) three-year or 45,000km transferable service program for $1299, and a five-year or 75,000km version for $2650.
Buyers can bundle the extended warranty and pre-paid servicing and gain a discount. The three-year pack is $2299 and the five-year version is $3899.
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